Now completely up-to-date and in its second edition, a captivating, insider's guide to the politics and personalities that will have a tremendous impact on one of the world's most secretive and important events-the election of a pope to succeed John Paul II.The next time a conclave unfolds in Rome, some 6,000 journalists are expected to descend on the Eternal City to cover the death of John Paul II and report on the election of his successor. The man in white who emerges from the Sistine Chapel at its conclusion will automatically become one of the most important figures on earth, a leader who commands a unique combination of political and spiritual power. Depending on how he chooses to exercise that power, governments and political systems may rise or fall, religious wars may heat up or abate, and the Church may undergo a radical transformation-from changes in its stances on such issues as sexuality, the place of women in the Church, to the role of the papacy itself.
Timely, informative, and engaging, this volume offers a popular and understandable review of the details involved in a papal election. Written by Vatican correspondent Allen (Cardinal Radzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith), the book is free of ecclesiastical jargon, save for some essential concepts, which are adequately addressed in the glossary. Allen begins with a 30-page job description for the next pope, then addresses several key issues that remain unresolved for John Paul II and will likely weigh heavily on the minds of the electing cardinals. The issues include collegiality, ecumenism,globalization, bioethics, and women's role in the Church. The dynamics of the conclave are discussed step by step, from the announcement of a papal illness through the first days of the new pope's reign. Political parties or camps among the cardinal electors are amply presented. Lastly, 20 leading front-running cardinals are named and profiled, while those in the "rest of the field" are each given a brief paragraph of introduction. Allen is scheduled to be an expert analyst for the Fox News network during the next conclave. Recommended for all libraries. John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin, Platteville Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 11, 2002
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Excerpt from Conclave by John Allen
What Does the Pope Do?
To understand why the election of a pope is important, we first need to grasp what the pope does. Unfortunately, there is no job description for the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Lots of titles go with the job, but they are of little immediate help: supreme pontiff (pontifex maximus), servant of the servants of God, vicar of Christ, successor of Peter, bishop of Rome, patriarch of the West. Catholics sometimes say the pope steps into "the shoes of the fisherman," meaning that he follows Saint Peter, who was a fisherman before being called by Jesus Christ to lead the church. That phrase, unfortunately, is more metaphorical than informative. A twentieth-century way to describe the pope might be to say that he is the legal and spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church, at 1 billion members the largest Christian denomination in the world, and certainly the most vertically integrated. One way of putting the point: the pope can push a button in Rome and see something happen in Singapore in ways that the archbishop of Canterbury or the Dalai Lama cannot.
In reality, however, the demands of the position are far more vast. A modern pope is called upon to be an intellectual, a politician, a pastor, a media superstar, and a Fortune 500 CEO. He must produce complex documents setting out the thinking of the Catholic Church on the most vexing problems that confront humanity. While he has a staff and as many advisers as he wants to help with writing and research, ultimately the message is for him to determine. He must oversee the work of the oldest diplomatic corps on earth, involved in mediating conflicts and protecting the institutional interests of the Catholic Church in dozens of global hot spots. On any given day, the pope may be briefed about the latest violence in the Middle East, about Muslim-Christian slaughter in Indonesia, and about the role of Western commercial interests in sustaining the civil war in the Congo. Then he will be expected to make decisions. If he does too little, he will be accused of indifference; if he does too much, he will be accused of meddling. The pope must be a skilled public figure who knows how to use, rather than be used by, the global communications industry. If he shrinks from publicity, they will say he is weak; if he courts it, they will say he's an egomaniac. Finally, the pope must manage the personnel and financial resources of an enormous multinational religious organization. Since to govern is to choose, as de Gaulle once said, some of those choices are bound to make people unhappy.
Many of these burdens are similar to demands imposed on other world leaders, such as the president of the United States or the secretary general of the United Nations. One key difference is that the pope, in addition to being a politician and administrator, is also expected to be extraordinarily holy. People might forgive a president all sorts of moral failings, but they have higher standards for pontiffs. Another is that being elected pope is, in effect, a life sentence-there's no retirement to anticipate, no comfortable years as an elder statesman writing memoirs and giving lucrative speeches at foreign policy seminars. Popes carry the burden of their office until they die. (We can't follow the idea here, but it's worth noting that if they wanted to, popes could retire. There's a provision for it in canon 332 of the Code of Canon Law, the supreme law of the Catholic Church. Some reform-minded Catholics wish popes would do so, in effect building term limits into the system. For now, however, the papacy remains a lifetime occupation.)